Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was reportedly briefed on Ambassador Michael Oren's attempts to kill a CBS "60 Minutes" story on Arab Christians in Israel.
During Sunday night's episode of "60 Minutes," reporter Bob Simon's story on Arab Christians included a heated confrontation between himself and Oren. Oren reportedly called Jeff Fager, the chairman of CBS News, before the broadcast and said he had information the "60 Minutes" story was "a hatchet job." He was concerned that the piece was critical of Israel and could harm the country's reputation among American Christians.
Simon confronted the Ambassador for calling Fager. Oren called Simon's report "outrageous" and "incomprehensible." He also said Simon's interview questions confirmed what he suspected as the story's critical slant. "Nothing's been confirmed by the interview, Mr. Ambassador, because you don't know what's going to be put on air," Simon responded.
According to sources, news of Simon's "60 Minutes" report reached the highest levels of Israel's government. Haaretz reported on Tuesday that Netanyahu and his political adviser Ron Dermer were "fully informed on the affair almost since its start." The report said "it was unclear whether Netanyahu or Dermer were the ones who instructed or suggested that Oren directly address the president of CBS in an attempt to prevent the broadcast."
According to Haaretz, the effort to thwart the broadcast was intense and coordinated, involving Oren penning an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal and Netanyahu addressing Evangelical leaders in Jerusalem, all in an attempt to bolster the government's record when it came to the Christian community in Israel.
A source told Haaretz that Israel's unsuccessful attempts to kill the "60 Minutes" report backfired as Oren's call to Fager became a central part of the story. "We awakened the dead," the source said.
Officials in the Prime Minister's Office disagreed and insisted that their efforts delayed the broadcast and made the final version "softer."